Revealed: Rena Has More Dangerous Containers


It’s only just been revealed there are more containers containing dangerous goods on the Rena than had been previously reported.

In other developments today, 17 rare New Zealand dotterels were released back into their natural habitat (details further down post)  and no container recovery operations were carried out today, due to windy conditions.

Maritime New Zealand says has been advised by insurers acting for the charterers of the Rena (Mediterranean Shipping Company) there are a further 21 containers containing dangerous goods on board the ship. This is in addition to the 11 containers of dangerous goods already advised.

However, Director of MNZ, Catherine Taylor, said expert scientific advice received by MNZ confirmed the material presented a low risk in its current state.

“Immediately after the grounding of the Rena on 5 October, as Director of MNZ, I requested information about all dangerous goods on board the ship from MSC as declared by the shippers, However, for reasons still unknown, the contents of these 21 containers were not declared as dangerous goods in the original manifest provided to MNZ and as required under the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code,” Ms Taylor said.

“While experts advise that the contents of these containers are considered low risk in their current state submerged below decks in the vessel’s holds, MNZ is carrying out a thorough investigation as to why these dangerous goods were not declared as required under maritime legislation and whether this constitutes a breach of the law.”

The manifest records the product as “Cover Bath Material” and “Pure Tapped Bath Material”, a by-product of the aluminium smelting process, which is considered low risk unless ingested or inhaled directly in its dry powdered form. MSC also advises this material is known as cryolite.

“Since learning of this new information, MNZ has spent the last few days working extensively with various scientific, environmental and health experts to accurately assess the risk posed by cryolite to the marine environment and to people,” Ms Taylor said. “We have also been given a strong assurance by MSC that there are no other potentially dangerous goods on board that have not been declared.”

Twenty of the containers in question are located in hold 3, which suffered considerable damage in the grounding. The other is in hold 5. This means they are below deck and inaccessible, under containers above deck. Of these, 17 containers are understood to be submerged, but all are likely to have been submerged at some time as the ship has moved.

Rena's containers | NZDF

There are 490 tonnes of the product is on board. It is packed in 1 tonne bulk bags inside the containers. The bags have a polyethylene liner and are constructed of polypropylene, so are water resistant, but not water tight. Water is likely to have seeped into the bags within the container.

“Expert advice is that the cryolite on board Rena is considered to be of low risk given that the product is only slightly soluble in water, so is expected to dissolve slowly. Any dissolved material will be diluted and dispersed very rapidly, reducing the potential effects further. ”

While cryolite is dangerous to humans in its dry form if ingested or inhaled, it is not considered a risk in these circumstances, because the material has been submerged and contained below decks since the Rena grounded. Ms Taylor said salvors working on the vessel had been advised that the material was on board and were taking all necessary safety precautions to continue their work.
“While this late notification is frustrating, it’s simply another issue Rena has thrown at us that we have to get on and deal with. It’s the typical nature of salvage operations that these sorts of issues will come up, and our plans remain flexible enough to respond to them as they occur,” Ms Taylor said.

“That said, this development also justifies the safety precautions we have been taking all along and the advice that we have been giving to the public regarding the importance of respecting the exclusion zone around Rena and not touching or handling containers or their contents. We have trained professionals equipped and ready to deal with any hazardous substances should they be lost from the vessel or come ashore.”

No container recovery operations were carried out today, due to windy conditions. This morning’s overflight of the Rena confirmed only a light sheen of oil coming from the vessel, measuring about 150m long and 20m wide.

A team of salvors did however get on board the Rena to assess the vessel’s condition, which is confirmed as stable and unchanged since yesterday.

The support vessel Go Canopus remains connected to the Rena and will continue to monitor its status.

Hand cleaning of the shoreline of Leisure Island continued today, in anticipation of more penguins being released later next week.

Seventeen rare New Zealand dotterels were released back into their natural habitat yesterday after being pre-emptively caught following the Rena grounding.

Wildlife experts released the birds at three sites along Maramarua beach east of Pukehina as part of a staged wildlife release programme that will be rolled out over the coming weeks.

Wildlife Response Manager, Nicola McGrouther, said the birds were released back into the areas they had come from which have now been declared free of oil.

“Yesterday’s releases were kept low-key so we could see how the birds reacted to their re-introduction to the wild and to ensure all our systems are working well. We are really happy with how the releases went and there will be an opportunity for the public to be involved in a future release.”.

Mrs McGrouther thanked local kaumatua, Huriwaka Rewa, who presided over yesterday’s dotterel releases, calling them the “children of Tangaroa” before sending them on their way with a karakia.

Dr John Dowding, a shorebird specialist who led the release, is hopeful the threatened birds will still have a chance to breed this season.

“The breeding season for New Zealand dotterels is from late August through to March. Dotterels can continue to lay eggs through to January and there are 17 very happy dotterels out there,” he said.

Dr Dowding acknowledged the fantastic job done by the Oiled Wildlife Facilty staff in caring for the dotterels in captivity, keeping them healthy and preparing them for release.

The dotterels were held individually at the Wildlife Facility at Te Maunga in purpose-built aviaries.  All the dotterels held at Te Maunga have been individually tagged with coloured leg-bands prior to their release.

The public are asked to give the dotterels plenty of space when out on the beaches as they settle back into their homes.



  1. Chris says:

    This begs the questions: what else do shippers lie about and why are authorities so trusting?

  2. ingolfson says:

    Chris, the authorities usually aren’t that trusting, but they are underfunded in the inspection departments, which comes to the same thing.

    And Libera (the vessel’s country of registry) gives a flying **** about what goes on with their vessels. Another example where the credo of the free marketeers is endangering us all - “We can’t BAN the ships of a whole country! That wouldn’t be right!”

  3. Geoff Houtman says:

    Jeez- more utter incompetence.

    Wondering how long the Insurers have known?

    Deregulation - good for you, good for me!*

    *except when anything goes slightly wrong

  4. John Dalley says:

    Surely the ships manafest was handed over to Maritime NZ?


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